Lynne d Johnson



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01.13.05 12:04 AM

sick and tired of being sick and tired

my next post was supposed to be some reactionary statement to that greg tate hip hop turns 30 piece, or at least to all the blogs that were referencing the piece. but to be quite honest, i'm over it.

anyone who read my conversation with corey or who has been following my little space here in this web universe since day one, in 2001, knows my views anyway. but something much more interesting to me came to the fore recently in this conversation that Candicissima (aka kittypower) had with Jay (aka hiphopmusic). it kind of reminds me of that piece i once wrote for drylongso :Imagining a Gender Neutral Black Male/Female Relationship.

you see, i realize that my voice or any other female's voice often gets lost in what has been dubbed the hip-hop blogosphere. but, truth be told, i do not write a hip-hop blog, i write about what moves me - and that's mainly music and technology, and being a black woman issues relating to my blackness or my womanhood are always going to be tackled here. this writing space is about my life — what i live, what i feel, what i think. no popularity contest here. no trying to find myself. i'm going to say what i mean and what i want, whenever the need arises.

but i've noticed that these hip-hop blogs (or even these political blogs) end up being a testosterone fest, fueled often by competition and of course the outshowing of who has the most knowledge of any given particular subject. most women just don't waste their energies in this type of atmosphere. and i'm not saying i'm different than most, and i can't even speak for them, but...

if you hear me, you hear me, and if you don't you don't. if you respect me, you do so because of who you believe i am (lord i hope it's not b/c of my so-called accomplishments - 'cuz in the grand scheme of what's wrong with our patriarchial culture those things add up to naught).

there's no point i'm stressing here. just a feeling i'm developing from observing this blog culture and that conversation i read that got me off on a lot of tangents here. lots of them.

i could boast and have you peep my hip-hop card, 'cuz it can never be revoked no matter how old i get and no matter if i'm ever not down with the music. i'm going to only say these things once - and only once. regardless if the fellas aren't feeling me or if they are, no one can ignore that i know what i'm talking about when it comes to hip-hop (and that's whether you want to call it old skool, mid skool, or new skool) as i've told you before, my history runs deep. but just like my history, i find my position in this space to present challenges at times. sure there are probably a lot of females out there discussing hip-hop music and culture on the web, but they haven't been invited to join the select cadre that seems to exist. and often i wonder, if i did not work where i work, or hadn't written x amt of articles over the years, whether anyone would be checking for this female voice either.

again, this is nothing new to me. i've been the lone b-girl down with the male crew since day one. since back in the bronx when chicks pushed me to the front of the dance circle b/c i could dance as good as or better than the b-boys. from when i first took an interest in DJing, and was the only lass studying with one of the great cutmasters — DJ Whiz Kid (who i'm told taught Jazzy Joyce). from whence i ran with project kids who taught me to tag and make markers. to emceeing as the only female in a male troupe as both a youth and as an adult (and poetry performance project based in BK), to being the only honey in editorship at a hip-hop publication back in the 90s. been there, done that. i'm not looking to be this single female voice that speaks for the female view in hip-hop culture, just b/c of where i've been, who i've known, or what i've done. but i've noticed that cats ain't checking for or seeking out other dimes to tell their stories.

maybe it's got to do with nature or nurture. women are known to be thinkers, thinking before they speak, and males often blurt out what's on their minds before they even check their rhetoric. so they're (women) not speaking up when these conversations arise, or maybe they are, but their voices are getting lost b/c dudes seem to only acknowledge other dudes. this definitely has me wondering whether the female voice is even respected in these kinds of conversations.

and so i guess in some way, this brings me to the greg tate piece. i'm not nostalgic about hip-hop past. i pretty much lived it, and i'm not the only one who has. what i do know is that hip-hop's evils are endemic (if i may use that word) of America's evils. we can't just point the finger at hip-hop when we have these discussions about the apathy of youth, or misogyny. hip-hop is a culture borne of American culture. they go hand-in-hand. yet, the hip-hop i know, came out of a need to make a way out of no way, not for profit or gain. it was a creative force, founded on the pillars of dance, graf, emceeing, and djing, as a response to innner-city struggle - the modern-day inner city blues. what the emcee rapped about was not always so pretty, though there was a lot of party and bullshit and of course boasting, but often it was the grand story of inner city plight. i'm not knocking today's hip-hop, and like some of my contemporaries who do, i never will. many of today's MCs still master that and still tell those kinds of stories. they don't glorify, yet they've earned money off of telling it and so they tell more of it, be it true or not, be they far removed from it or not. the commodification and transnational aspects of the music (industry) itself have dictated what sells and what doesn't. how come ain't no one taking viacom or interscope to task for this? guess 'cuz it's easier to point the finger at the minstrel player shucking and jiving for his piece of the American pie.


"And it seems to me that if the Negro represents, or is symbolic of, something in and about the nature of American culture, this certainly whould be revealed in his characteristic music." - LeRoi Jones, Blues People


So I get the argument. What is this music being produced, largely by black bodies, saying about the black self as a whole?


"...the reaction and subsequent relationship of the Negro's experience in this country in his English is one beginning of the Negro's conscious appearance on the American scene." - LeRoi Jones, Blues People


Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was one of the earliest pianists to record a boogie-woogie" piano solo. His 1928 tune "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was the first recording to be labeled as such and and had a great deal of influence on all future pieces in that style.

"I want you to pull up on your blouse, let down on your skirt, Get down so low you think you're in the dirt...
Now when I say "Boogie!" I want you to boogie;
When I say "Stop!" I want you to stop right still...


Nelly was born Cornell Haynes Jr. in St. Louis, where he encountered the street temptations so synonymous with rap artists.

"I need to see you take it down to the floor/ Spread your wings, if you real, ma, fly real low/ Pause for a second ma, grind real slow/ And if you do it right/ All day we'll go...

I don't see nothin wrong/ Drop down and get your eagle on"

So I suppose at this juncture it's not ludicrous to ask whether black music has evolved or not. Or whether today's black music truly represents the "black experience" in America. A long time ago on the afrofuturism listserv — exploring futurist themes, sci-fi imagery and technological innovation in African diasporic technoculture — I once asked, "If i am black and you are black and we share not an experience between us, then what is "the black experience?"


I did say that I was going to go off on a lot of tangents didn't I? And I've probably asked a lot more questions than I've answered or left a lot of open holes. And I've probably drawn no conclusions. I may even get smashed for this post. But at least I'm saying my part.

If the profiteers of this music you hip-hop heads love so much, continue to make the same kind of music over and over again (and you continue to praise these efforts), then perhaps you don't want to see them evolve as people or as artists. And if Jay-Z is one of the artists that you feel really represents this music, then think about what Elizabeth Mendez Berry observed in a Voice piece (also published in Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004) from 2003...

"Now, after nine studio albums and undisclosed millions in revenue, Jay-Z says he's retiring from rap. He claims that he's no longer inspired by the hip-hop world, but the content of The Black Album and his contemplative conversational tone suggest that he isn't just bored by what other people are doing—he's bored by the alter ego he's outgrown. The risk-averse rapper calculates, however, that it's the smooth criminal the public has fallen for—the reason he can sell athletic footwear without a jump shot—and he's not about to jeopardize his financial future. Instead, he's doing his best to preserve the myth for posterity."

and of course you remember Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Keepin' It Unreal..."

"At its core the hubbub around Get Rich and the return of gangsta rap is crack-era nostalgia taken to the extreme. Imagine—articulate young black men pining for the heyday of black-on-black crime. Like all nostalgia, neo-gangsta is stuck in history rather than rooted in current reality. The sobering fact is that the streets as 50 presents them, brimming with shoot-outs and crack fiends, do not exist."

Now I'm not at all offering that hip-hop is dead, but something is definitely afoot here. And y'all gotta' admit that a lot of mediocre shit is getting peddled as hip-hop proper (make that gospel).

posted by lynne | |


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